David ran the engine today and I took the day off to chase the train and experience 745 from the perspective of the thousands of folks who have seen her over the past month. It felt a little strange to drive slowly away from the train as the final departure procedures were being performed, but it also helped me start the adjustment toward returning to real life.
I drove over to Perkins Lane and waited in a driveway to a bridge contractor. I heard David and Willy making the brake test over the radio and heard them talk about departing. I have to admit that my heart was feeling a little empty and strange to not be a part of the operations, but in another way, it felt good to think that 745 was in good hands. It seemed to take forever and then I finally saw the plume of smoke, heard the whistle, and 745 came rolling by.
There truly is something almost spiritual about a steam locomotive in motion. The motion of the drivers, the plume of smoke, and the sound of her “breathing” as she passed by was truly a sight to behold. I got caught up in the rush hour traffic so I got onto I-10 to try to catch up to the train further down the line. I came to the KCS overpass just after she passed underneath and the traffic slowed on the Interstate because of the smoke. I was able to leapfrog the train several times and really enjoyed watching it roll by and it also gave me a chance to visit with some nice folks along the way.
As the train approached Mays Yard, I heard MOP Ted Wax on the radio trying to get a ride to the KCS New Orleans Yard and the yardmaster told him that there may be quite a wait for a ride. I got on my radio and offered Ted a ride which he accepted. I drove over to the tower at Mays Yard and pulled in just as the train was arriving. Ted got in the Suburban with me, the CN/IC pilot boarded 745 and we went our separate ways. It was nice to have the opportunity to visit some more with Ted as he’s been just a super individual with which to work. Ted shared with me that he was really sad that the adventure with 745 was coming to an end and I certainly commiserated with him. I dropped Ted off at the KCS New Orleans Yard Office and headed back for the train.
The LASTA train had pulled about a mile down the lead from the Mays Yard wye and I had problems locating it. I spent about 20 minutes listening to communications on the radio but couldn’t locate where they had gone. I finally found the train just as they were pulling up to Mounes Avenue and this is where the train tied down for the night.
Bill and Marie Morris, David and I decided to get a late dinner and went to four restaurants before we found one open. We ate at Denny’s on Clearfield which is right next to the approach to the Huey Long Bridge. It seemed a little strange that we had taken the steam train over that bridge just a month ago. We all had a good visit and then David and I headed back to the Quality Hotel on Causeway which has about become our second home.